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Literature / The Dandelion Girl

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"Day before yesterday I saw a rabbit, and yesterday a deer, and today, you."
Julie Danvers

"The Dandelion Girl" is a short story written by Robert F. Young, an American science fiction writer. Published in April 1961, the story follows the middle-aged Mark Randolph, a lawyer who is on vacation in September 1961. He travels to a rural area just outside of the city where he works, and one day, encounters a young woman named Julie Danvers in a wooded area. She professes that she is from the year 2201 and that her father has a time machine. Despite initially being skeptical of Julie's stories, Mark finds himself captivated by her fanciful imagination and begins to fall in love with her.

The short story itself may be read here; reviewers have found the story to be poignant and leave a strong impression on readers. The main quote in the story served as the inspiration for the anime RahXephon. It is also referenced in CLANNAD and Portal 2.

"The Dandelion Girl" provides examples of:

  • Arc Words: Julie's phrase is mentioned exactly six times in the short story and is the only line to be repeated in its entirety. This phrase pertains to how love, like the things Julie sees, is more significant and grandiose as time passes.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: By 2201, urbanisation has largely displaced nature, and Julie travels back to The '60s to experience the pristine landscape before urban sprawl replaces the woodland.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Anne's dislike of being photographed stems from her desire to evade the Time Police.
  • Foreshadowing: When Mark first sees Julie, he feels an overwhelming sense of deja vu that he can't explain, and an inexplicable urge to touch this strange young woman's face. It turns out she's not as much of a stranger as he thinks.
  • Future Society, Present Values: For a woman of the 23rd century, Julie sure does talk and act like one from 1961. She's "studying to be a secretary," even.
  • The Game of the Book: There exists a free Visual Novel adaptation of this short story.note 
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Mark smokes frequently smokes a pipe, giving the air of a more mature gentleman.
  • Happily Married: Mark and Anne share a happy marriage even if they have recently been somewhat distant. However, Mark begins to doubt himself once he finds himself falling for Julie.
  • Happy Ending: After Mark realises that Julie and Anne are the same individual, he finds his love with Anne is rekindled.
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse
    "My father smokes a pipe too," she said, "and when he lights it, he cups his hands the same way you do, even when there isn't any wind. You and he are alike in lots of ways."
  • May–December Romance: Mark is 44 when he meets Julie, who is 21.
  • Ms. Imagination: Mark finds Julie's vivid imagination endearing and greatly desires to talk to her to hear more about how she thinks of the world.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: Mark notes that Julie's dress looks a little old-fashioned even during the 1960s.
  • Pastoral Science Fiction: Peaceful science fiction set in the countryside.
  • The Reveal: Anne turns out to be Julie, when she had traveled back to Mark's era one final time before her time machine broke down.
  • San Dimas Time: Played with. Time machines are set to travel a certain distance, meaning that if one was set to travel to July 7th 1950 today, it will travel to July 8th 1950 tomorrow unless you change the settings, and Julie simply chooses not to do that until the final journey, where she programs it to travel a couple of decades further.
  • Stable Time Loop: Julie's father states that events that are to happen have already occurred, preventing any paradoxes from appearing. As such, anyone who travels back in time becomes a part of the world they enter and therefore could not produce a paradox.
  • Time Police: Such an organization exists to ensure that only certain individuals are permitted to travel back in time, preventing paradoxes from arising: individuals violating these laws are apprehended.
  • Time Travel: While the precise mechanics behind time travel is not explained, the presence of a time machine allows Julie to encounter Mark, setting in motion the events within the story.
  • Time-Travel Romance: This short story presents one of the more optimistic endings; upon coming across Julie's old dress in his attic, Mark immediately realises why Julie stopped visiting him.